Several times in the past I have linked to Maryam Namazie’s blog. She is, among other things, a spokesperson for the organization Fitnah, a women’s liberation organization with a particular interest in the liberation of women living in Islamic societies. From their website:
Fitnah is a protest movement demanding freedom, equality, and secularism and calling for an end to misogynist cultural, religious and moral laws and customs, compulsory veiling, sex apartheid, sex trafficking, and violence against women.
In their regular publication, Unveiled, this month they have an interview with Kenan Malik which I found particularly interesting. Elsewhere, I have written about how multiculturalism presented a challenge to the leftist political views with which I had grown up. The Salman Rushdie affair seemed to have played the role of catalyst in Malik’s political transformation that female genital mutilation played in my own.
In the interview, Malik addresses a subject that has been of much concern to me, that of freedom of speech. I have been disturbed by the call for censorship under the guise of limiting hate speech. As I see it, censorship is inevitably the prerogative of those who have power. Malik’s reasoning mirrors my own. From the interview:
Any kind of social change or social progress necessarily means offending some deeply held sensibilities. ‘You can’t say that!’ is all too often the response of those in power to having their power challenged. To accept that certain things cannot be said is to accept that certain forms of power cannot be challenged.
…. The importance of the principle of free speech is precisely that it provides a permanent challenge to the idea that some questions are beyond contention, and hence acts as a permanent challenge to authority. This is why free speech is essential not simply to the practice of democracy, but also to the aspirations of those groups who may have been failed by the formal democratic processes; to those whose voices may have been silenced by racism, for instance. The real value of free speech, in other words, is not to those who possess power, but to those who want to challenge them. And the real value of censorship is to those who do not wish their authority to be challenged.
Malik’s most recent book, From Fatwah to Jihad, discusses the rise of a fundamentalist form of Islam that has arisen in UK against the backdrop of multicultural policies. I haven’t yet read this book, but it looks very interesting, especially in light of my interest in how multiculturalism, due to the fact that it considers the group to which an individual belongs as being more important than the individual himself, is inherently illiberal and dehumanizing.